McHenry County nonprofit aims to raise money for area mental health groups

Mental Health Resource League raises money for local agencies

McHenry County Adult Program classroom assistant Kate Goodman reads to Alex Toberman on April 15 at the McHenry County Mental Health Board in Crystal Lake. The McHenry County Adult Program nonprofit offers programming to adults with developmental disabilities and is the most recent recipient of the new immediate grants fund program from the Mental Health Resource League for McHenry County. (Matthew Apgar – mapgar@shawmedia.com)

CRYSTAL LAKE – Like many of the participants in the McHenry County Adult Program, Scot Maier spends most of his time in a wheelchair.

The 23-year-old Crystal Lake resident has a developmental disability that severely restricts his mobility and limited his cognitive development, but he still enjoys getting out of the chair and socializing.

But the carpet caused rug burn and couldn’t be deep cleaned as regularly as the staff would have liked, said Jim Maier, Scot Maier’s father and the president of the small Crystal Lake-based nonprofit.

The solution seemed so simple: floor mats.

“We do have funds available for things like this, but our budget is very, very tight, and we’re certainly very cautious about our expenses,” Jim Maier said. “We really try to prioritize what we need.”

And floor mats were not a need.

A grant through the Mental Health Resource League for McHenry County, a nonprofit that has raised funds for local agencies and other groups since 1967, though, will make the mats happen.

The league rolled out the new grant program last year in an effort to help more local agencies while not cutting the funding it currently provides to 19 agencies, including Woodstock-based Adult and Child Therapy Services, Richmond’s Main Stay Therapeutic Farm and the McHenry-based Pioneer Center for Human Services, said Kristy Isonhart, the group’s president.

The grants – which are distributed in a shorter application cycle than most grant programs and capped at $500 – also were designed to help agencies meet immediate needs in the wake of state funding cuts, Isonhart said, adding that much of the money goes toward things that cannot be funded with state grants.

The first recipient was the Home of the Sparrow, which was awarded $500 to make an emergency repair to the furnace at the Crystal Lake shelter it operates for homeless or abused women and children.

“We didn’t have all the money we needed for it,” said Debbie DeGraw, the group’s vice president for marketing and public relations. “That additional money really allowed us to go and get the furnace that we needed. ... It might have taken us longer [otherwise.] We would have had to seek the money elsewhere because it wasn’t in the budget.”

Another recipient was the Alexander Leigh Center for Autism in Crystal Lake, which used the $500 for an emergency call light system in the bathroom.

The quick turnaround on the grant gave the school the opportunity to solve a problem – what to do about students who were independent enough to use the bathroom on their own but couldn’t be heard if they needed help, said Kelly Weaver, the school’s co-founder and executive director.

The Mental Health Resource League raises its funds primarily through the Fall Diddley Craft Show, which is set to celebrate its 30th year this October. Admission isn’t charged at its older event, the Fair Diddley Craft Show, which dates back to 1969 when it raised $500.

Last year, it distributed more than $200,000, a “phenomenal amount of money” for local agencies, Isonhart said, adding that as a volunteer, she was really drawn to how local the effects were.

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